NHL's Atlanta Thrashers set to move to Winnipeg
Atlanta Thrashers players celebrate a shootout win over the Ottawa Senators in March.
May 31st, 2011
01:45 PM ET

NHL's Atlanta Thrashers set to move to Winnipeg

[Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET] Atlanta will be losing a National Hockey League team for the second time, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, will be gaining one for the second time.

The new owner of the franchise, True North Sports and Entertainment, announced Tuesday that it has acquired the team from its current owners, Atlanta Spirit.

"I am excited beyond words" to make this announcement, True North CEO Mark Chipman said Tuesday.

The transaction is subject to the approval of the NHL Board of Governors later this month.

The Thrashers will be the second NHL franchise Atlanta has lost to Canada. The Flames moved to Calgary, Alberta, in 1980. Winnipeg lost its previous NHL team, the Jets, to Phoenix in 1996. The team was renamed the Coyotes in Phoenix.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's words that hockey was stronger than ever in Canada sparked loud applause in Winnipeg. And then he said the words many residents of the city have been waiting to hear from the NHL:

"It's nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years."

That sentiment was echoed by Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger.

"NHL - welcome home," he said. "It's great to have you back here where you belong. We've missed you, and we're going to make it work forever."

Bettman also had some words for Thrashers fans. He said the NHL doesn't like to move franchises unless it has to. And just like when the Jets were forced to leave Winnipeg in 1996, sometimes, "we simply don't have a choice."

"To fans in Atlanta, we are not happy about leaving Atlanta," he said. "Please be assured it was not about whether Winnipeg is better than Atlanta."

The Thrashers sent out an e-mail to fans thanking them for their support.

"It's extremely disappointing to all of us that [the sale] became necessary after all other options were exhausted," the e-mail said. "We want to express my gratitude to you, the fans, for the years of dedication to the Atlanta Thrashers.

But in Canada, where hockey is king, fans couldn't be happier.

Many are hoping the move can mean a return chance at cheering for the Jets, with the trending topic #gojetsgo picking up steam with the announcement. However, there has been no indication yet what the team would be named.

Chipman, who was involved with the effort to save the Jets years ago, said there is no doubt the loss affected the psyche of the town. But he is excited to bring the NHL back to the people of Winnipeg

And video around Winnipeg showed massive groups gathering at The Forks and other major areas, cheering, wearing Jets jerseys and chanting "Welcome back, welcome back" and "Go Jets, go."

"It's a fantastic day for the city, and I'm hoping, you know, for decades on, everybody will get to experience the NHL and the economic impact and the wonderful pride that comes with being a city that has the best of the best," Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz told the CBC.

soundoff (296 Responses)
  1. PoconoPhil

    Putting a hockey team in Atlanta made as much sense as putting a baseball team in Montreal.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaulMofATL

      The team drew well in the beginning. It was more the fault of a dysfunctional ownership group than fan participation. Every good player got traded or let go to free agency. They made a last ditch effort to sign Kovalchuk, but why would he want to play on a team where he was the only star. It's a shame, I enjoyed going to the games.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • WPG Jets 2011

      Atlanta Trashers lost $150 million in the last 6 years. You don't know the specifics of the whole deal, so maybe you should do some research before commenting.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      the loss of Atlanta's hockey team can be summed up in two words, "Pathetic ownership". How long before Donald "The Duck" Waddell gets the ax in Winnebago?

      May 31, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bla bla bla

    Hey Yourmon who cares about you too.???? and your name should be yourmoron.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • kginsbo

      "and your name should be yourmoron."

      Holy cow, that's a pretty clever jab there!!!
      Do you perform locally??

      May 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Paul Willson

    Soeey Atlanta . But hockey is Canada's game as MLB is in the USA

    May 31, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cpg35222

    Atlanta had a hockey team?

    May 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      cpg, that's quite a profound statement. Did you find ATL had a hockey team on wikepedia?

      May 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Atlanta Fan

    The Atlanta Thrashers will truly be missed.I am a native Atlanta born resident and have lived here and supported all of the hometown teams my entire life. The Thrashers were no different. Although hockey isn't one of the most popular sports here I took the time out this year to go to my first hockey game and I absolutely loved it! If I had known all these years that the games were that exciting I would have been seeing them for years. I am sad to see them go, but glad that I had the chance to see them play live at least once. The Thrashers have sparked a new outing adventure for me and I promise that will not be my first and last hockey game. I hope they do well in Canada. Go Thrashers!

    May 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. yourmom

    where are all the thrashers fans whining about how they lost their team?
    Oh ya sorry i forgot there is no fans.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • bla bla bla

      in your head.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cesar In A Onesey

    I heard the problem was that it was too hot in Atlanta to freeze the rink. Did you know that? That they don't have ice in Atlanta?

    May 31, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 34

    Nice grammar.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred Evil

      Kelsey.......?!

      May 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Barry McAukiner

    Nordiques next?

    May 31, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bobby hull

    BETTMAN SUX!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 31, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • frankcanadian

      And Resux.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bla bla bla

    34 you're rite, anyone who don't care about this big loss should not post their comment, yeah!!! how about the free speech???? who cares??

    May 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sean

    Fact is, Atlanta is THE WORST city when it comes to supporting its pro sports. And I'll back it up – you drew a whopping 6,500 the Friday night your beloved Lenny Wilkins broke Red Auerbach's record for coaching victories, and you did not sell out NLCS games. Your nationally televised Falcons games are virtually silent – IN A DOME! Y'all post for NASCAR, the Yellow Jackets and SEC football in general, but y'all don't support ANY of your pro teams, much less the Thrashers.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      And baby, that ain't abuse..it's the truth...CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH????

      May 31, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • WPG Jets 2011

      They had lousy ownership so that didn't help the situation. There are passionate fans there, but they could not find a buyer to keep it in Atlanta. And when owners are losing hundreds of millions, they are not going to stick around too long. I do feel bad for the real fans there, we went through the same thing in 1996. I'm happy we got a team, but would rather have our original franchise, Phoenix. I don't think today is a good time to bash the fans in Atlanta.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • AreUSerious?

      they have better things to do than watching other people play games

      May 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • poorfolk

      GO JACKETS!!!!!

      May 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kginsbo

    I found this news shocking! Atlanta had a team???

    May 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Gus

    I find it funny that Nashville was able to keep its team after a push to bring it to Canada, but a much larger market in Atlanta loses theirs.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      and Nashville's ownership looked like Donald Trump compared to the Thrashers head honchos.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. SirDirtiness

    I assume this disrupts the balance between east/west conferences. One more Western team and the NHL can move Detroit and Chicago back to the east where they belong

    May 31, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC

      Columbus will move to the Eastern Conference

      May 31, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • SirDirtiness

      makes sense as well

      May 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
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